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The radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation originating, principally, in the irregular surges of charge in thunderstorm lightning discharges. Atmospherics are heard as a quasi-steady background or crackling noise (static) in ordinary amplitude-modulated radio receivers. Also called atmospheric interference, strays, sferics . See sferics.
Since any acceleration of electric charge leads to emission of electromagnetic radiation, and since the several processes involved in propagation of lightning lead to very large charge accelerations, the lightning channel acts like a huge transmitter, sending out broad band radiation; the 10-kilocycle range propagates best and is used in detecting atmospherics. Atmospherics may occasionally be detected at distances in excess of 2000 miles from their source. Advantage has been taken of this in using radio direction-finding equipment to locate active thunderstorm areas in remote regions and in between weather reporting stations.


This article is based on NASA's Dictionary of Technical Terms for Aerospace Use